Pages tagged "Local Seed"
Seeds to the People!
This pandemic has brought into even sharper focus the need for resilient local food and seed systems--and a run on seeds across the county. Cultivate Oregon is partnering with Rogue Seed Keepers to immediately get seeds (and some starts) into the hands of those that need them, especially connecting heirloom seed varieties like the Three Sisters (corns, beans, squash) with indigenous communities in Oregon, and potentially beyond.
However, we are also working to simply connect those in need with the seeds that we have available, which include many other seed varieties.
Cultivate Oregon and Rogue Seed Keepers have officially become a “seed hub” for the Cooperative Gardens Commission and we received our first shipment of seeds to share! We have additional seeds and starts from our connections with Oregon’s seed growing community. Thank you #coopgardens!
However, because of the timing of getting seeds dispersed into communities for *this* growing season, we are looking for emergency funding for Phase I of this work, which includes the purchase of additional small envelopes for seeds that are currently in bulk, larger envelopes for mailing, postage costs, and potentially small stipends for people packaging and transporting the seeds. Even small donations will help! Please donate right now if you can.
If you're in Oregon and in need of seeds to grow food, or if you would like to volunteer for this project, please contact us here.
Phase II will be working on a seed germination project to determine the viability of large stores of seeds that also will be shared with communities in need. Please stay tuned for more information.
Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds
This eye-opening and informative story from the New York Times, Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds, is a must-read! Hear from our local Victory Seed Company on what they're experiencing during these challenging times and why it's so important to protect our seeds.
Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds
I knew firsthand how calming gardening can be, especially when you’re not dependent on the food for your immediate survival. Time slows down a little, thoughts meander, and a feeling of flow can arrive, even when the land you’re cultivating is a tiny patch in earshot of a bus stop.
But as I searched for seeds to grow beautifully swirled red and white Chioggia beets, fiery peppers and enough basil to start my own pesto company, website after website warned that my vegetative dreams may be delayed.
"It feels like we are selling toilet paper," Mike Dunton, the founder of The Victory Seed Company, a small seed company focused on horticultural biodiversity told me via email. (He was too busy filling orders to come to the phone.)
I’d been searching his company’s website for glass gem corn, a popping corn that originated with Carl Barnes, who was a part-Cherokee farmer in Oklahoma. In recent years, the corn has become internet famous because of its kaleidoscopic jewel-like appearance. My pandemic prep included buying four pounds of standard yellow popping corn; glass gem corn felt like a way of stepping up my game.
But the website cautioned that all buyers were agreeing to abide by “pandemic ordering terms,” and warned that the current shipping backlog was 18 to 24 days.
Clearly, I was not the only person who felt that the best path through the pandemic was to panic-buy a bunch of seeds."
Noah Schlager, the conservation program manager of a nonprofit seed seller called Native Seeds/SEARCH, said: “I was talking with a colleague who was saying that a lot of elders lived through the Great Depression, and they remember times like this."
“They’ve been saying, ‘This is the time to be saving these seeds and making sure that we can feed ourselves,’” he added.
The mission of Native Seed Search, a nonprofit, is to promote and conserve the crop biodiversity of the arid American southwest. (Native Seed Search is responsible for bringing attention to glass gem corn.) The company sells seeds to the public, “but our priority is seeds for Indigenous communities,” Mr. Schlager said, pointing out that the Navajo Nation is already suffering because of the new coronavirus.
“They’re oftentimes the last place where real aid, or FEMA support, or anything really gets handed out to people,” he said."
Protect the Specialty Seed Industry in Oregon
Cultivate Oregon and coalition partners are back in Salem to protect Oregon agriculture and the specialty seed industry by creating accountability for genetically engineered (GE) contamination events in Oregon! SB 434 and identical bill HB 2882 have been filed and have been placed in the Judiciary Committee in both the Senate and House. It is possible that we will need to call upon you to help us support these bills in the next couple of weeks. You can help by submitting testimony, traveling to Salem to testify at a hearing along with our lobbyist and other coalition members, and/or adding your name to our public list of supporters. So please sign up for our newsletter and action alerts to stay updated.
SB 434 and HB 2882 hold patent holders or licensed manufacturers accountable when GE organisms are found on land without permission of the owner or lawful occupant. These bills WILL NOT pit farmer against farmer. The parties that will be held responsible are the corporations behind genetic engineering, not the farmers who use them since in some instances, contamination is out of the hands of the farmer who planted the seed. GE contamination, and the threat of contamination, costs farmers, including Oregon farmers, billions of dollars. It is time to level the playing field and hold the corporations behind the technology that is responsible for this contamination accountable.
Sponsors and sign-ons of these bills include: Sen. Frederick, Sen. Manning, Sen. Dembrow, Sen. Prozanski, Sen. Gelser, Sen. Golden, Rep. Marsh, Rep. Helm, Rep. Sanchez, Rep. Holvey, Rep. Hernandez, Rep. Nosse, and Rep. Gomberg.
We’re not doing this alone--Our Family Farms, Center for Food Safety, Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families and Friends of Family Farmers are involved in this important work to ensure that we have a specialty seed industry for generations to come.
As many of you know, GE contamination is a one-way contamination and the burden falls on the farmer who needs to fence it out, which can be impossible in some geographic regions. Further, the legal precedent is not favorable for a farmer who is inadvertently contaminated by somebody else's GE crop. GE contamination is often irreparable. For example, the GE bentgrass infestation in Malheur and Jefferson counties is now the responsibility of the state since the federal government deregulated bentgrass, so there no longer are any legal teeth to hold Scotts and Monsanto responsible for this ongoing contamination.
Oregon is an incredibly unique seed growing region and it is important that we protect this legacy. Oregon is one of the top five vegetable seed producers in the world, owing to the state’s fertile valleys and temperate climate. Specialty seed growers in the state grow radish, cabbage, onion, Swiss chard, squash, beets, grasses, among others, for seed, which are planted by farmers around the world. Our specialty seed industry is worth at least $50 million dollars annually with room for growth if the right protections are in place. Ensuring that Oregon has a robust specialty seed industry that includes organic seed production will help create an environmentally and economically resilient food system, especially in terms of adaptive seeds that will help fight climate change.
Why is this legislation needed:
- Federal regulations are inadequate.
- There are no statewide GE regulations in Oregon.
- All counties, exception Jackson County, are preempted from making decisions about what type of seeds are grown in their jurisdiction.
- The ban on growing canola in the Willamette Valley sunsets later this year. Canola poses exceptional threats to a wide variety of organic and conventional vegetable seeds and as of right now, it is unclear how ODA will address this before the ban sunsets. Potential GE canola contamination unfortunately hasn’t been a large part of the official discussion, and even non-GE canola seed was recently found to be contaminated. As a result European farmers are ripping up their crops and won’t be able to use the fields for two years. See: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-gmo-bayer-idUSKCN1PV1RG
Read full text of both bills and track them here:
SB434 - https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/SB434
HB 2882 - https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2019R1/Measures/Overview/HB2882
Read testimony from last year’s bills here (first public hearing) and here (second public hearing).
Indigenous Peoples Are Vital for Food System Stability
This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9, is an opportunity to celebrate the ecological and cultural value of indigenous foodways. In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared the day to encourage the world to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples. Celebrating their cultures means preserving their time-tested farming practices, agricultural knowledge, and traditional crops that can help address global climate change and food insecurity.
Of the roughly 250,000 plant species known to humankind, an estimated 30,000 are edible and approximately 7,000 have at some point been used as food. However, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields during the past 100 years; the varieties left that build our food system are predicted to suffer under climate change. The biodiversity maintained on indigenous peoples’ farms may be the key to building resilient food systems that can withstand changing weather patterns, meet nutritional and cultural needs of communities, and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems.
However, popularizing traditional crops in the international market can produce varying health and income effects for indigenous communities. Protecting indigenous peoples requires sustainably and ethically sourcing these crops from companies with social missions, such as fair trade organizations improving the lives of indigenous farmers.
Food Tank is highlighting 30 historically and agriculturally significant fruits, vegetables, and grains from regions across the globe. These food crops can thrive under a variety of harsh environmental conditions, help to rehabilitate degraded landscapes, and provide farmers and their communities a range of health and environmental benefits.
Photo from Flickr.
German Nonprofit Creates New Open-Source License for Seeds
We know about open-source software and hardware, but can the concept – decentralized development and open collaboration for the common good – be expanded to address other global challenges? The nonprofit OpenSourceSeeds based in the German town of Marburg has just launched a licensing process for open-source seeds, to create a new repository of genetic material that can be accessed by farmers around the world, in perpetuity.
We spoke with one of the leaders of this initiative, Dr. Johannes Kotschi, to learn more about exactly how the open source model was adapted for seeds, and why this initiative is so important in an era of increasing global concentration of power in the agriculture industry.
Can you tell me a bit about the open-source seeds movement in Germany as well as around the globe? How big is it, is it growing, and who are the members?
Open Source Seeds (OSS) is a newly created organization, and we had our launch on the 26th of April in Berlin. We launched with a tomato called Sunviva. A tomato is quite a good symbol – everybody likes tomatoes, and everyone can grow a tomato. From all over in Germany we got requests from gardeners, plant breeders, from open-source activists for our open source tomato.
We are an offspring of AGRECOL, [which] is about 30 years old and focuses on sustainable and organic agriculture – mainly in the developing world. Within AGRECOL we started working on open source seeds about five years ago – first as a small working group.
There is a similar initiative in the United States – the Open Source Seeds Initiative, based in Wisconsin – but they are not licensing, they are giving a pledge to varieties. We have different strategies, we, OSS, pursue the legal strategy, and they pursue the ethical strategy, but we are working closely together.
As the seed industry consolidates, open source breeders hope to preserve important varieties for the farms of the future
The Open Seed Source Initiative (OSSI) is a direct response to the fact that many of the world’s crop varieties are being developed, patented, and sold by the Big Six seed and chemical companies. Five of the Big Six are likely to merge into just 3 very powerful seed and chemical giants (ChemChina & Syngenta, Bayer & Monsanto, Dow Chemical & DuPont), and would own more than half of the world’s seed supply.
In only 80 short years (from 1903 to 1983), the U.S. has lost about 93% of our unique seed varieties to industrial agriculture.
Our food security is at risk. “Having so few people making decisions about what biodiversity is planted on the agricultural landscape is scary. We’ve been shown that when many people rely on too narrow a germplasm pool, we know the risk of plant disease is much higher.” -Claire Luby, plant breeder and executive director of OSSI
Most plant breeding used to take place in the university setting, particularly at Land Grant Universities,which are publicly funded agricultural and technical educational institutions. Now, in many cases, those universities’ influence on the marketplace have been overshadowed by the big seed companies.
As a result, according to a2014 reportfrom Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), the U.S. has lost over a third of its public plant-breeding programs in the last 20 years, and the number of public seed breeders continues to decline. For example, “there are only five public corn breeders left, down from a peak of 25 in the 1960s,” according to the report’s authors.
University seed research is also often tied up by intellectual property restrictions. Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, all inventions that come out of universities must go through designated technology transfer offices. so academic breeders don’t often retain the rights to the seeds they breed. In addition, Deppe notes that, “University plant breeders are increasingly having trouble getting access to the germplasm they need to breed new varieties.”
Claire Luby, a plant breeder and postdoctoralresearch associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the executive director of OSSI. She has spent years breeding seeds and studying intellectual property rights, and has released eight open-source carrot varieties through OSSI. Luby says that around a third of all carrot germplasm is private. And while it’s tough to say exactly how much publicly available, unpatented seed exists outside OSSI, the overall trend is alarming.
For one, says Luby, food security is at risk. “Having so few people making decisions about what biodiversity is planted on the agricultural landscape is scary. We’ve been shown that when many people rely on too narrow a germplasm pool, we know the risk of [plant] disease is much higher.”
In response, Deppe, who is on the board of OSSI, says the group wants “to create a protected commons in which at least a substantial part of all the germplasm needed to create new seed crops is kept available for everyone’s use.”
Civil Society Denounces World Bank's Scheme to Hijack Farmers' Rights to Seeds
Ahead of World Bank’s release of the 2017 “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA) report this month, 157 organizations and academics from around the world denounce the Bank’s scheme to hijack farmers’ right to seeds, attack on food sovereignty and the environment.
In a letter to the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and EBA’s five Western donors, the group demands the immediate end of the project, originally requested by the G8 to support its industry-co-opted New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
“The EBA dictates so-called ‘good practices’ to regulate agriculture and scores countries on how well they implement its prescriptions,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute. “But the EBA has become the latest tool, to push pro-corporate agricultural policies, notably in the seed sector—where it promotes industrial seeds, that benefit a handful of agrochemical companies,” he continued.
Only six multinationals currently control over two-thirds of the industrial seed sales, and pending agro-industry mergers stand to further consolidate this oligopoly. Further market expansion for these corporations depends on the shrinking of farmer-managed seed systems, which currently provide 80 to 90 percent of the seed supply in developing countries through on-farm seed saving and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange.
A new report, Down On the Seed, the World Bank Enables Corporate Takeover of Seeds, exposes that while the World Bank claims to promote “smart and balanced policies,” its EBA index blatantly ignores farmer-managed seed systems. Instead, it reinforces the stranglehold of agrochemical companies and Western nations by pushing for intellectual property rights in agriculture, so that private breeders profiteer from the use of their seeds by farmers.
Global Alliance Report Highlights Seed Diversity
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GA) released a report, titled “Seeds of Resilience: A Compendium of Perspectives on Agricultural Biodiversity from Around the World.” Led by the GA’s Agroecological Transitions Working Group(ATWG), the publication focuses on the role seeds and seed diversity can play in sustainable agriculture, food security, and nutrition. Lauren Baker, Consultant on Strategic Initiatives and Programs at the GA, told Food Tank that the organization “believes that seeds are the foundation of sustainable, equitable, and secure food systems and that maintaining and enhancing agricultural biodiversity is critical in light of global challenges such as climate change, and food and nutrition security.”
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.